CLEVELAND — Cavaliers forward Luol Deng has received the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given to the player, coach or trainer who displays outstanding service and dedication to the community.
The award is voted on by the Pro Basketball Writers Association. Deng, acquired in a trade with Chicago in January, is a two-time All-Star (both with the Bulls).
"It’s an honor to be recognized for any award, but this one is special because it represents who I am as a person and where I came from," Deng said Tuesday. "What I’m most proud of is that my family can look back after my career is over and realize that I was able to make a difference on and off the basketball court. That is something that tells the true story as to who I am as a person, someone who cares about his community and wants to improve the lives of others."
According to the NBA release announcing the award:
"(Deng) recently recorded a public service announcement for the EnoughProject.org, urging peace during a time of renewed conflict in his native South Sudan. In the video, he tells young people, ‘Look around you, and reach out. Make peace among those who are fighting. Forgive one another and encourage others to forgive. Build trust with people who fear each other. You are young, and if you are wise, you will build bridges with people your age that will last a lifetime. It is not too late to start â¦ but it is not too soon either.’"
The NBA released added that this is Deng’s latest contribution to a number of international causes, "including The Luol Deng Foundation, which is a global non-profit organization that uses basketball as a platform to give hope to those in Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. The work in Africa focuses on building outdoor basketball courts and delivering initiatives to bring together local communities. Two courts, funded by Deng, will open in the summer of 2014 and include 12 hoops and locker rooms as well as basketball gear (shoes, jerseys, equipment). Plans are also in the works to increase the support of schools and renovate and build schools in South Sudan."
Others nominated for the award this season:
Miami’s Ray Allen; San Antonio’s Matt Bonner; Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant; Toronto’s Amir Johnson; Atlanta’s Kyle Korver; Portland’s Damian Lillard; Minnesota’s Kevin Love; the L.A. Lakers’ Steve Nash; Chicago’s Joakim Noah; and the L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul.
"The breadth and depth of Luol Deng’s community service elevated him from a deep pool of committed candidates,” said PBWA president Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "But, really, all the candidates and their communities are winners.”